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Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network: David vs. Goliath


Online advertising is a good way to increase your reach and bring yourself into the focus and minds of potential customers through engaging image ads. The first thing that comes to mind when planning a display advertising campaign is mostly the Google Display Network. In fact, many don't even know that ads are also possible in another way: Programmatic Advertising.

A closer look is definitely worth it, because Programmatic Advertising offers several advantages over "conventional" advertising via the Google Display Network. Let us take a closer look and explain: What is Programmatic Advertising, how does it work and how does it differ from the Google Display Network?

1. What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic Advertising is the automated, digital playout of display ads and native ads through the use of special software. What's important to know: Google also offers this option within their Google Ad Manager. There it is called Programmatic Direct. Regardless of the software, the principle behind it is always the same: in an auction (real time bidding), companies bid for the best advertising spaces (banner spaces) on websites so that their ads are shown exactly when a potential customer visits the site.

2. How does Programmatic Advertising work?

Agencies use the demand-side platform (DSP) to define the conditions under which ads are to be shown. Here, parameters such as frequency, maximum cost-per-mille (CPM) as well as geographic and demographic targeting are defined.

The supply-side platform (SSP) is the counterpart to the DSP and is used by website operators to offer vacant advertising space. It is used to publish the advertisements on the website. In addition, the SSP creates user profiles of website visitors by means of cookies.

The auction itself takes place on the Ad Exchange Server. Here, the SSP transmits user profiles of the website visitors in milliseconds and accepts bids from advertisers in return. As soon as there is a match between the bid and the desired user profile, the ad gets displayed.

3. Programmatic Advertising vs. Google Display Network: who wins?

In some areas, programmatic advertising and Google Display Network are quite similar: both operate on the same auction and placement principle and allow versatile targeting (via topic, audience, keywords). Apart from that, both solutions have some advantages and disadvantages - depending on which goal you are pursuing.

  • Audience reach: Programmatic Advertising has an enormous reach with approx. 95% of all websites - compared to the Google Display Network with approx. 70%
  • Variety: Unlike the "normal" Google Display Network, Programmatic Advertising allows rich media ads. These are formats that react to the behavior of users (e.g. on click, hover, etc.) - not just static images or videos. Speaking of videos: Here, the Google Display Network is limited to YouTube and its audience - Programmatic Advertising has no limitation here.
  • Targeting: More precise targeting is possible with Programmatic Advertising, as it allows 2nd and 3rd party cookies to be purchased. The Google Display Network (GDN), on the other hand, only uses its own data. As a result, there are no restrictions on remarketing measures with Programmatic Advertising. However, GDN does not allow remarketing for medical products, for instance.
  • Pricing: As a result of more precise targeting, Programmatic Advertising can be more cost-effective than the Google Display Network. However, GDN offers more auction options: CPC, CPM and CPA. Programmatic Advertising operates exclusively on CPM bids. In addition, some DSPs require a minimum ad budget of $5,000 to $10,000. If this is not spent, fees are often charged.
  • Handling: The Google Display Network is so popular and well known for a reason. Unlike Programmatic Advertising, it is very easy to use and allows even smaller companies to run online advertising without a minimum budget, achieve a large reach and define the target groups very precisely. Most DSP for Programmatic Advertising are far less user-friendly and more suitable for agencies and experts.

4. Which advertising tool is best for your business?

As with David against Goliath, it is the "underdog" who wins the battle - at least if you look at the pure sum of the facts. However, which solution is the right one for your company in particular depends on a multitude of factors: Budget, knowledge, resources, runtime, ... just to name a few. Although we are an official Google Partner Agency, we will support you in a completely unbiased way in choosing your solution, in conceptualizing and planning an effective display advertising campaign. Because both in Programmatic Advertising and via the Google Display Network, it is above all a clear vision, great content and a strong marketing strategy that determine the success of a campaign.

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